She will use the almost £0.5 million (700,000 Swiss francs) in prize money to continue her research into the interactions between the immune system and the bacteria that live in our intestines. This work is opening up new possibilities for the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases.
Professor Powrie’s work focuses on why the immune system, which defends us against harmful microorganisms, does not attack the numerous beneficial bacteria which inhabit the intestine. A delicate balance exists between the immune defence system and the intestinal bacteria which, if upset, results in inflammatory bowel diseases.
Her research has identified a class of cells, called regulatory T cells, that police the immune response in the intestine, preventing it from attacking bacteria that are of benefit to us.
Professor Powrie’s team has demonstrated that deficiencies in these immune cells can lead to chronic intestinal inflammatory disease, offering new research avenues for the treatment of these conditions.
Fiona Powrie is the Sidney Truelove Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Oxford, and head of the Experimental Medicine Division of the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2011.
Professor Powrie is a winner of the 2012 Louis-Jeantet Prize along with Matthias Mann of the Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany. His work in mass spectrometry has revolutionised the analysis of proteins and their functions. The award ceremony will be held on April 19 in Geneva.